Sulfites in Wine

I have experienced the wines of France and really notice a flavor difference between with and without sulfites. I prefer without. However, I am a U.S. citizen, and most of the wine I drink has been purchased in the U.S., and every bottle I have seen here since returning from France says “contains sulfites.” Why don’t American winemakers consider leaving this out? The wine has a much truer, and less acidic, flavor without sulfites. :rolleyes:

Welcome to the SDMB, clif.

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All wines contain sulfites. Even the ones made in France. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. Many winemakers do add sulfites during the winemaking process, but the US doesn’t do it an more or less than any other winemaking country.

The French just don’t require the warning label, but the USA does (for any wine with sulfites higher than 10 parts per million.) As a comparison, most wines contain 20 or 30 ppm, while dried apricots or the like can contain 500-1000 ppm.

Very few people are truly allergic to sulfites. Red wine won’t give you a ‘sulfite headache’ and just for the record there are usually more sulfites in white wines than reds.

There are ‘nearly sulfite-free’ wines (again, no wine is 100% sulfite free) available in the US. Look for wines labelled “Organic” - no sulfites are **added ** to the wine.

And for the most part, you can’t taste sulfites in wine. If you do, it will most likely be a flaw in the wine - the smell of a burnt match.

More info here.

Sulfites get added to wine to help keep it sterile.

Maybe France has different laws about sterility?

They get added for several reasons, freshness being one of them.

France’s winemaking laws are probably the strictest in the world. So no, it’s not a matter of winemaking or sterility laws. It’s a labeling law.

In the US any wine containing more than 10 ppm must have a label stating ‘Contains Sulfites.’ Even if that wine is not made here, which is why you might see the label (as well as the Gov’t warning label, also required in the US) randomly affixed to the back of an imported wine here in the US, but you won’t see those labels or warnings on bottles of the same exact wine in those countries.

France, like all other winemaking countries, is obviously not bound by US labeling laws, hence no warning labels on French wine sold in France.

I doubt there are significant differences in sulfite levels from different wine growing countries. About the only thing I’d accept is that more French growers farm organically, which might reduce the natural sulfites during fermentation. But that doesn’t mean they don’t (or can’t) add more before or during bottling.

Either way, it makes little difference. You wouldn’t be able to taste a difference unless the wine was particularly over-sulphured. The wine would smell like a burnt matchstick and leave a sour taste in your mouth.


And while freshness *is *one reason, I actually meant *sterilization *in that sentence, in response to your question, bup.

whoops. And now it’s time to go home and open a bottle of (oh noes!) sulfite-laden wine. :slight_smile:

I personally drink non-sulfite wine all the time when I am in residence at the house in SW France. I buy my excellent table wine at the local garden shop from huge 300 gal. barrels from a nozzle that resembles the one that gives you gasoline. I just refill my 5 litre container at about E1.50 per litre. It has NO SULFITES and I feel it is less harsh and truly a good experience for me, the amateur wine lover. I drink it like soda pop during a hot day, though it has 12 degrees (?). Never a headache plus all the benefits of red wine.

Oddly, when I offer it to my American guests, they turn up their noses since it has none of the tannic ‘bite’ they associate with good wine. I say “B.S.” This stuff is great and even without ‘pedigree’ goes down better than anything I ever drank from a bottle. This information is only useful to folks who reside in a wine region and can buy wine in bulk. I would drive 50km to buy it but it is just a bicycle ride up the road.

The only wine from a bottle that comes close that I buy in USA is the DeBoeuf Beaujolais Villages, but of course it has sulfites.